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Climate change talks badly handled: Minister

By Betwa Sharma
December 17, 2009 12:15 IST
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GlobeRegretting the absence of an agreed text just a day ahead of the summit level talks at the climate change meet in Copenhagen, India has said the entire process of negotiations have been 'very badly handled' but made it clear that the developing countries were not to be blamed for it.

"Unfortunately, I feel that this entire conference, the entire process has been very, very badly handled," environment minister Jairam Ramesh said after India met other BASIC countries -- Brazil, South Africa and China -- for almost three hours last night to discuss the plan of action as very little work could be done on the two texts that parties have actually been working on for more than a week.

The developing countries fear that the mysterious draft prepared by Denmark would be sprung upon hours before the high-level segment of climate talks begins, making it difficult for any world leader to oppose.

"India, China, South Africa and Brazil, the four BASIC countries, are working very closely together and if the talks fail, it would be because the process managed by Denmark would have failed," Ramesh said.

"If the talks fail, it would be because the developed countries have not fulfilled their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

The developing countries led by India, China, Brazil, South Africa, the African group and the G-77 have worked very hard to bring the negotiations back on track. The blame should not be laid on our doorstep," the minister said.

"The blame is fairly and squarely with the developed countries and I'm very happy that one of the positive outcomes of Copenhagen is the cementing of ties between India and China," he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be leading the Indian delegation at the Summit level talks scheduled for Friday.

The developing countries are angry that the mysterious draft text that has been prepared by the Danish presidency has not been circulated for the rest of the parties to study.

There is a strong suspicion that this is a deliberate move on the part of the developed nations.

Noting that it is inevitable that the blamegame is going to start at some stage, Ramesh said that while India, China and other BASIC countries have tried, there was a 'determined effort' to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol gets into 'intensive care and it is in intensive care.'

Maintaining that there is a likelihood of the Kyoto Protocol being abandoned, he said the negotiations have taken place in bad faith and 'there is a huge trust deficit here.'

"I think it is incredible that we are almost at the ultimate day of the negotiations and we don't have texts on which we can negotiate," he said, hoping that a text will be put on the table. He said all developing countries want an agreement.

"We want negotiations to succeed and we are certain if there are disappointments from Copenhagen, the developing countries are not to blame for this," he said.

The minister felt that the negotiations would probably end in a political agreement but it was the 'content of the political declaration' that was still uncertain.

"A political declaration is inevitable but the question is what is the content of the political declaration," he said.

Chaos ensued on Wednesday when it was announced that the Danish presidency had prepared texts on both tracks dealing with the Kyoto Protocol and the Long Term Cooperative Action.

Ramesh hoped that the negotiations will resume and an agreed text will be produced for the heads of state and government meeting.

Holding that India will be 'profoundly impacted' by climate change, he said, "In many ways, we have the highest vulnerability on multiple dimensions. We have tremendous obligations to our own people by way of both adaptation and mitigating policies and programmes."

Parallel to the meeting of BASIC group of countries, the Conference Plenary was reconvened at 10 pm on Wednesday after a delay of 12 hours to allow the chair of the Group on LCA, Michael Cutajar, to present his report on the draft text of the LCA pursuant to the Bali Action Plan.

Cutajar noted that refinements were made to areas of emission reductions, nationally appropriate mitigation actions and the provision of financial resources and investment but they were far from finalised.

Vijai Sharma, India's environment secretary, told the delegates at the meeting, "Consistency with the convention (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) must be ensured. We cannot rewrite the Convention."

The overall climate negotiations are moving under two tracks -- the first track is LCA under Bali Action Plan that requires parties to produce a legally binding treaty before the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.

The second track is the extension of the Kyoto Protocol into the second commitment period from 2013 to 2018 where developed countries listed under Annex B will have to take binding cuts.

Speaking at the high-level segment of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, Ramesh said India was now considering nationally accountable mitigation outcomes besides the National Action Plan on Climate Change and the Clean Development Mechanism Programme.

He told his counterparts from 192 countries and several heads of state who have arrived in the Danish capital that India has added over 3 million hectares to the forest cover that is now sequestering close to 10 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The minister said India was considering nationally accountable mitigation outcomes in different sectors like industry, energy, transport, building and forests.

He pointed out that if India's project under the clean development mechanism were approved and implemented by 2012, 'carbon credits amounting to a further 10 per cent of our annual GHG emissions will be available to developed countries to enable them to meet their KP (Kyoto Protocol) commitments.'

Ramesh took the opportunity to declare that India's key positions, which have been challenged by various groups during the past week, remain unchanged.

He said Indias domestic action would only be subject to the scrutiny of the Indian parliament and added that the country's civil society and media would also keep a vigilant check on its progress.

"India has probably the most rigorous MRV system that any government can go through with its democratic Parliament, activist judiciary, vigilant NGOs and watchful media," he said.

Detailing out the national action plan on climate change, Ramesh said eight focused national missions and 24 critical initiatives were implemented under the programme.

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Betwa Sharma in Copenhagen
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